Against The Tide

Reshma Nilofer, India .

July 28, 2020

I serve an advisory role to the Master of all ships entering and leaving the Ports. Everyday different ships are piloted in River Hooghly and brought to our anchorages : oil jetties, docks and pontoon jetties. The River Hooghly is undoubtedly one among the most treacherous navigable rivers of the World. What I enjoy the most about my job is the challenges we face each day and our new leanings from it each day! No day is the same. NO MONOTONY WHATSOEVER! close second are the winter morning romantic sunrises!

Like mentioned above, each day each ship poses new challenges because of varying parameters. Also the occupational hazards involved in boarding and disembarking in monsoon season is a challenge of life and death.

As a woman, the only one in this business in my country, acceptance and sensitivity aren’t yet in place and that is the biggest challenge too. Other challenges include gender neutral work norms not incorporated after my entry and gender sensitive work place is still a dream. We spend hours traveling from one port to another port (they are hours away Haldia – Kolkata) and lack of proper restrooms etc are a challenge.

Gender neutral work norms will have to be conformed by ALL COMPANIES AND FLAGSTATES regardless of employing both genders or not. I believe that we first need to make the current female workforce comfortable and taken care of BEFORE we bring in more women in the industry. Harassment based on Gender is still a closed door hush-hush conversation our women DO NOT want to venture to for the fear of being stereotyped and tagged as an ‘unnecessary headline maker’. These two issues are those I want IMO to look into IMMEDIATELY!

Like each and every woman at sea has, I also have faced rock bottom.But I used it as my launch pad. Reflected on how and where I failed as a seafarer and worked on eliminating my weaknesses and success followed. When at Sea, I faced indifference from a lot of my colleagues but over time, by my performance and resilience I won them over. Today those are the very same men who are my allies, mentors and comrades. This you need to earn.

Reshma  is a Marine Pilot.

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